What the Red Sox roster will look like come Opening Day is still a bit murky as the lockout prohibits teams from contacting, let alone signing, any available players. But we know what the Red Sox have to work with so far and from there we can fathom a guess as to who will stick with the big club and who won’t. Let’s take a look at the starting pitching and work our way to the starting lineup.
Boston’s starting rotation is not as dire as once thought if we consider the return of a healthy Chris Sale who, if he can rekindle his old form, is an absolute beast on the hill. As the No. 2 man in the rotation, we see Nathan Eovaldi who took the reins as the staff ace in Sale’s absence and finished fourth in the 2021 AL Cy Young Award race. Add to that a steady Nick Pivetta who showed flashes of brilliance and the No. 4 and No. 5 spots are filled by either Michael Wacha, Tanner Houk, Garrett Whitlock, or Rich Hill.
It is likely the Red Sox will employ Whitlock as the closer if all goes according to plan – a big if at this point in the offseason. Whitlock is listed as the Red Sox closer on their depth chart for the 2022 season but there is always last season’s clubhouse leader in saves, Matt Barnes, who could assume the role yet again if he can get his accuracy in check.
Barnes was phenomenal in the early part of the campaign but when the dog days of summer hit, Barnes’ looked fatigued and his disappearing breaking ball was suddenly very transparent to the hitters he faced. We will have to see what role Barnes will play this season but even if he is the proverbial set-up man for Whitlock, he is a valuable asset as long as he can flash the form that made him so tough to hit in the first four months of last season.
We should note that the live MLB odds being offered at online sportsbooks have the Red Sox at +1800 to win the World Series this season. That places them just outside the Top 10 and tied with the Brewers. But that number will plummet if the Sox can acquire, via trade or free agency signings, another big arm to bolster the starting rotation or a wipeout closer, ala Craig Kimbrell during Boston’s 2018 championship season.
As for the rest of the bullpen, right now it consists of Josh Taylor, Ryan Brasier, Hirokazu Sawamura, Darwinzon Hernandez, and Michael Wacha. The latter could be a viable back of the rotation starter but that will depend on how the former NLCS MVP performs. Although it feels like Wacha has been around forever, he is still only 30-years-old and could be the surprise of the rotation.
As for the lineup, Boston boasts All-Star caliber players in Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, and the return of Gold Glove outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. And while JBJ has never been known for prowess at the plate, he does provide outstanding coverage in centerfield and knows the Green Monster better than anyone.
From the looks of things, the positions will be filled as follows:
Catcher – Christian Vazquez – The Red Sox picked up Vasquez’s $7 million option and will have Kevin Plawecki assume the backup duties.
First Base – Bobby Dalbec – Dalbec hit .240 with 25 dingers and 78 RBI in his first full season in the bigs. At only 26, he is a solid option at a position known for power rather than batting average, and looks like he will fill that role perfectly.
Second Base – Christian Arroyo – The Tampa native is the placeholder at second base for now but if and when the lockout ends, this could be the position where the Sox spring for a big free-agent signing. Carlos Correa at short moving Xander over to second, perhaps?
Shortstop – Xander Bogaerts – The X-Man will be entering his 10th season with the Red Sox, has a career .290 batting average, and is a staple in the Boston batting order.
Third Base – Rafael Devers – The Red Sox have one of the brightest young lights in the league right here at the hot corner with Rafael Devers. The 25-year-old left-handed hitter batted .279 with 38 home runs and 113 RBI last season and is in line for a mega-contract.
Designated Hitter – J.D. Martinez – The power-hitting righty declined his opt-out clause to return for his fifth season in Boston. Martinez enjoyed another productive year in 2021 when he smashed 28 home runs with 99 RBI on a .286 batting average. A welcome addition to any lineup.
Outfield – Alex Verdugo, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Enrique Hernandez – A solid outfield and one that can carry the Red Sox throughout the season but wouldn’t Kris Bryant look like an amazing fit here?